by Simon Page
BBC News Online
In summer 2003, the government will announce new guidelines for the distribution of lottery money. In the first of five articles investigating lottery grants, BBC News Online looks at the organisations which decide who are the winners and losers in the funding game.
Lottery players see the money raised as belonging to the people
For every £1 spent in the hope of winning a fortune, 28p finds its way to one of six good causes; the generic name given to categorise recipients of lottery funding.
By February 2003, £11,428,664,244 in lottery grants had been given to fund projects across the UK but, despite that enormous figure, recent research found lottery players knew little about who was spending the proceeds of their flutter.
A common misconception is that the government or Camelot - the lottery game operators - distributes money to good causes.
In fact, 16 organisations - known as distributors - have been charged with handing out lottery funds, although one, the Millennium Commission, ceased to receive lottery income in 2001.
On the whole, these are free of government control. They work within guidelines set by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) but decisions on which projects receive backing are made solely by the distributors. This can get them into hot water.
It was the Millennium Commission which was responsible for issuing lottery funds to that most controversial of projects, the Millennium Dome in Greenwich. However, they are not alone in receiving the kind of high profile many would wish to avoid.
A consistent problem faced by distributors is the publicity certain projects receive. On the whole, the more high profile (and costly) the scheme, the greater the scope for negative publicity.
One such project was the refurbishment of the Royal Opera House, funded by the Arts Council of England to the tune of £73.5m.
"The Royal Opera House was one of the biggest and most controversial schemes, but that was the first lottery grant awarded by us", said David McNeill from the Arts Council.
"But it would be wrong to say we supported an elitist institution in need. It was a capital investment which allowed for the creation of two new performance spaces able to put on a wider, more inclusive, body of work."
Readers 'vent their anger'
Added to the list of poorly received lottery projects would be Sport England's funding of the purchase of Wembley Stadium (£120m) and another controversial Arts Council award totalling almost £73m to Sadler's Wells Theatre.
But none of these quite compare to the reaction prompted by one grant from the Community Fund of £340,000 to the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns (NCADC).
The Daily Mail newspaper ran a number of stories denouncing this grant and encouraged its readers to write to the Community Fund's chairwoman, Lady Britain. They printed the Fund's address for anyone who wanted to "vent their anger" at the award.
A grant to asylum seekers was seen as wrong by some
Richard Buxton, the Fund's Chief Executive told BBC News Online: "We had a lot of problems at a number of levels as a result of the Daily Mail campaign.
"It was very unpleasant for our chairwoman who was directly targeted by the paper. It was also unpleasant for our staff both from a physical and psychological point of view.
"We had staff in post room opening letters wearing gloves because people sent in things like excrement and used hypodermic needles.
"The source of the campaign was a grant to the NCADC for £340,000, but there was a failure to report fairly the contribution in the context of our wider funding. For example, we have given grants totalling £61m to Citizens Advice Bureaux."
The NCADC award prompted questions in parliament as some saw it as funding a political organisation.
The National Audit Office conducted an investigation which, while advising stricter checks on applicants, agreed the grant to NCADC was correct and followed lottery guidelines.
But the damage had been done. Public consultation conducted last year found: "At a national level there is awareness of the more controversial beneficiaries such as the Dome, the Royal Opera House and most recently asylum seekers.
"The money spent by the lottery is considered by the public to be their money, and the lottery is described as being 'of the people for the people' hence the public's strong frustration and suspicion surrounding how the money is allocated and spent."
Next: Big projects v community schemes. What has lottery money been spent on?